Jodhpur, the historic Sun City, is witnessing a fierce electoral battle where Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot has locked horns with Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Vaibhav a 38-year-old law graduate, is engaged in a David vs Goliath battle in a constituency that is known for its caste bias.
It was in 1980 that Ashok Gehlot, contesting the Lok Sabha election, tasted his first electoral success from Jodhpur and went on to win the Lok Sabha elections on five occasions and then became the Chief Minister for the third time.
Ashok Gehlot enjoys tremendous popularity among all the castes here though he belongs to the OBC community of the Malis, the gardener community. Vaibhav is shy and wanted to contest last year’s Assembly election but his father had other plans for him.
Vaibhav had to choose between three constituencies. He was asked by the people of the Sawai Madhopur-Tonk and the Sirohi-Jalore Lok sabha constituencies to contest as well. But he opted to contest from his home turf of Jodhpur. Vaibhav has been involved in the Pradesh Congress organisation as its secretary and helped the party bounce back after the 2013 electoral setback.
He is known for maintaining a distance from the Chief Minister’s office when his father was the CM. Nobody could approach him for any official favour, it is said of Vaibhav who supposedly had a very small circle of friends in Jaipur.
A law graduate from Symbiosis, Pune, Vaibhav started practising law but the profession did not interest him and he decided to pursue a career in politics.
Vaibhav is backed by people who are all known loyalists of Ashok Gehlot. He is also popular among the youth.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed an election meeting at Jodhpur, he blamed Ashok Gehlot for pitching his son from the constituency and campaigning for him, accusing him of pursuing dynastic rule. The remarks did not go down well with the people as Vaibhav was the Congress cadre’s unanimous choice as its candidate.
Vaibhav’s rival is formidable and he is a person who was named as the BJP’s state unit president. But Shekhawat could not become the president when Vasundhara Raje refused to accept this decision of the BJP high command. Shekhawat comes from the RSS background and was a student leader in his youth who defeated the scion of the Jodhpur royal family, Chandresh Kumari, in the last election of 2014.
Chandresh Kumari, who has been a member of both the Lok Sabha and the Assembly, refused to contest this time because of her old age. It was only after she refused that Vaibhav’s name was approved by Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Vaibhav is bound to benefit from the aura of his father but the youth and the community are backing him as well. The people of Jodhpur are grateful to Ashok gehlot for the development work undertaken by him in Jodhpur, particularly in solving the drinking water problem of the city and also for developing Jodhpur as an education hub. It was the senior Gehlot’s efforts that brought AIIMS and IIT to Jodhpur.